Last night, chaos broke loose on the interwebs as the owner of Main Event Talent Agency, Judy Blem, posted an angry text photo on the company's Facebook page demanding that World of Beer pay outstanding debts for bands that have played at the company's venues.
World of Beer, a popular chain of bars that specifically notes live music as a key part of its culture, was attacked repeatedly in the comments -- there are 54 comments so far and Blem's post has been shared 155 times. Main Event's post claimed that there remains "21 unpaid invoices for 42 gigs performed at 3 South Florida WOB locations (Dadeland, Midtown & Wellington), dating back from July 19th through September 28th, 2013." The post claimed that the invoices had been repeatedly sent to Reeves Krumin Enterprises LLC (RKE LLC) but have been ignored by the franchise for over six months.
We contacted Judy Blem to discuss the matter further, but she declined to give a statement because of legal concerns. "I have to be careful of what I say," she told us, though throughout the rest of the night, someone commenting through her Main Event's Facebook continued to comment on the photo, defending Blem and giving out more details.
One of many paragraph-long comments said, "I've got $25K out-of-pocket right now on gigs as I wait for client reimbursement." Many musicians supported Blem through the comments. Pat Channing wrote, "I told everyone about this in 2012. I have emails from Richard [Reeves, head of RKE LLC], where he threatens to sue me if I don't stop harassing his office. It took over 7 months and many emails before I finally got paid. I even played a gig for them in good faith, and supplied my own PA (theirs was not working) when they owed me over $1000."
After a few attempts at contacting Reeves directly, he sent a representative of the franchise to answer some questions. The rep described the situation as "a vendor's dispute that is being settled. It will be settled within the next week or two; it is above the store level. All of our World Beers are separate companies, and unfortunately this coast sort of lumps everything together, and it's something that Rich Reeves is handling with Main Events."
The rep confirmed that "We had an agreement with Main Events. We do not pay our bands separately; we pay Main Events. We've never paid bands directly." After our initial discussion, the rep called two more times with more information that Reeves wanted to make clear: "He tried to settle with Main Events, the entire amount this month that was due. However, Main Events declined, and the statement was that he would be hearing from Main Event's lawyers."
When I asked about what was "due," the rep said, "He's just saying that there's a vendor dispute. That's all that he's saying."
The representative seemed to really want to clarify that the conflict was only involving Main Event. New Times checked with other bands who'd performed at World of Beer without Main Event's agency help, and so far this seems to be true. Richie Ramirez of the classic rock band Stagger said, "We did get paid in a timely manner and have no outstanding payments due to us. That's because we went through Imagine That talent agency. They took care of us." Imagine That could not be reached for comment.
Roger Houdaille of Ex Norwegian who played at the Midtown location, stood up for World of Beer, saying, "We were paid at some point in the night, before we were even done with the gig! We had a contract and everything was handled professionally."
The World of Beer representative explained, "We have a new booking agent. His name is Mat Trostell, and we do not pay bands directly. Mat is our booking agent, we pay the booking agent, and then the booking agent pays the band. It's up to Mat when he wants to pay them."
Gary Greenspan, who showed his support of Main Event and Judy Blem on the infamous Facebook post told us, "We have played WOB many times through Main Event, never had trouble getting paid because Judy Blem, the owner of Main Event, takes care of her people, but the last time we played WOB Midtown which was June 4th of last year, we never got paid. And when speaking with Judy months ago, it was explained that WOB was not paying her on any of their venues, which means she couldn't pay us."
The problem appears to only lie within the Main Event agency, as outside musicians had no issues getting their money. Certain acts also seem to continue performing at World of Beer locations despite being owed money (i.e Pat Channing). Judy touched upon this fact after a commenter raised the question, to which she wrote, "Why did this debt mount, you ask? Because my bands continued to work at 3 other WOB locations that eventually did get caught up on payments, causing me to walk a fine line in order not to jeopardize the gigs booked at other WOB locations, and because false promises were made (in writing) by WOB Corporate to 'catch up' on payments. Unkept promises."